There’s more to Cuba than meets the eye, and Cuba is complicated. Doing our time in Guantanamo.
Let’s talk economy and perception. We’ve all heard how the average state salary equates to about $40-$80 a month. And, there are silly crazy price tags attached to everything other than food (and much of that too is crazily priced). There’s virtually nothing that’s of better quality or cheaper to buy here). The quality of most things are what one expects at our dollar stores, and in many cases those “economy” items from home are far superior.
Food is rationed here, and it’s not enough to feed a family for a month. And yet there are so many well-fed, well-dressed Cubans. Are they, or are they not, in need? Do they need those items that tourists love to bring or don’t they?
As we rolled in Guantánamo today we were surprised at how progressive and affluent some appear in this urban center. It’s not displayed on the buildings exteriors that are sometimes patched together with a mishmash of wood, metal and anything else that’s available. But go for a walk at night and stand at an intersection. You’ll see sharp dressed Cubans on flashy motorcycles, old rickety bikes, and horse drawn utility carts all at the same stop light. Peek in through some open doorways as you walk by in the street and you’ll see some beautiful homes behind the exteriors.
There is great disparity here. Those who “have” seem to have it. Those who don’t, really don’t.
The Casa we had hoped to occupy tonight was full so the fellow arranged another for us. He accompanied us four blocks down the busy street to our new address and as we approached Randy and I both admit to judging a book by its cover. I went inside to inspect the room while Randy stayed with the bikes outside. Our host showed us the room. I walked past a gorgeous courtyard that was totally unexpected! Tropical plants, an outside terrace in the upper floor, and beautiful furnishings. We are in our happy place!
Despite the affluence that we see, there are still a lot of things that money just can’t buy in Cuba. The host had a young boy following her around and we presented him a Hot Wheel car (they are the best gifts!). Both hers and his eyes lit up and he squealed with delight. Thrilled, he was!
Hardware stores, toy stores, and bicycle stores would most probably rate among those most greatly needed here. You won’t find any.
Today’s ride was hard. I’m talking real hard. We burn through 5L of water on our rides and I’m perpetually dehydrated. The route today was almost desolate, and much of it was brown and arid in appearance. Food challenges remain but as we found a service center just outside of Guantanamo, we hit the mother load of chocolate ice cream! (random observation: sitting on the curb at the gas station we saw several young men lingering. One was carrying around a pigs head by the ear.) Then just down the street from our Casa, hamburgers (chicken, really)!! And ice cream bars!
Cuba didn’t run out of ice cream after all. It had all been diverted to Guantanamo apparently. (Confession: we each ate a tub of chocolate ice cream, a nutty buddy bar, and an ice cream sandwich).